Monday, June 29, 2020

July 23, 1967: The Day Detroit Died

July 23, 1965: The Day Detroit Died A riot broke out, a riot lasting 48 hours, resulting in 43 deaths, 1,189 injuries, and over 2,000 buildings destroyed. The riots were under control by July 26. Detroit died that day. Let that be a warning to Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle. Gordon Lightfoot’s Black Days in July, depicting the Detroit Riots, was denied airplay on 30 stations. Detroit’s population peaked at 1,849,568 in 1950, the fourth largest in America. The city was one of the wealthiest in the country. The population dropped to 1,670,144 in 1960. Detroit, for all its wealth, is a one-trick pony, the auto industry, the other “Detroit.” Three of America’s largest companies, GM, Ford and Chrysler, were Detroit companies. Several manufacturers, Packard, Studebaker, and Hudson, dropped out of the industry, as did several smaller companies. GM in 1970 was by far the largest and most profitable company, not just in the United States, but globally. Detroit’s police on July 23, 1967 raided an unlicensed, after-hours bar. That was the spark that ignited rioting by the black community living in one of the most racist, discriminatory northern cities, with crime, poor schools, and a heavy police boot. An intense 48 hours of rioting ensued. The President pursuant to the Insurrection Act of 1807 dispatched elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to join the Michigan National Guard, Michigan State Police and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in fighting the riot. The result of the race riots was White Flight to the suburbs and the death of downtown Detroit. Black flight also occurred for those who could. Say hello to McComb, Oakland, and St. Claire counties, and the rest of Wayne County. I was in downtown Detroit in early 1972. Much of downtown was desolate. The J.L. Hudson Department Store, which once vied with Macy’s Herald Square as the country’s largest, was open, but the inventory was sparse. The store subsequently closed. The building remained for several more years, until demolished, leaving a symbolic hole in the ground. I entered the last record store in downtown Detroit. An armed guard was at the door and the records behind the counters. You had to ask the clerk to pull out the albums you wanted to see. I assume the store closed soon after. Detroit’s population dropped to 1,514,063 in 1970, and then to 1,203,368 in 1980. The population continued to drop to 667,272 in 2020. Almost 80% of the population is African American. 36.43%, over 1/3, live below the poverty rate. Then came the collapse of Detroit, the industry, in the mid-1970’s. The two Arab Oil Embargoes of the 1970’s changed American car purchasing habits. Gas mileage and quality became primary factors; neither of which was Detroit’s forte. Detroit, the industry, collapsed. GM with 60% of the market in 1970 now hovers between over 17-18%. Factories were closed and mammoth layoffs ensued. I see flight out of the cities that were wracked by riots. Minneapolis and Seattle are not one-trick cities. The toleration of lawlessness by the city leaders sent a message to the economic Community, especially to the looted and torched merchants. Strips of empty and burnt out stores will remain. Businesses will move outside the cities, perhaps even to other states. Drip, drip, drip, one by one, businesses will leave. Drip by drip, the middle class will move to the suburbs. It’s no longer retirees leaving New York for Florida. Seattle has Amazon, Nordstrom’s, Starbucks and the University. Only the UW cannot pick up and leave. Nordstrom’s downtown Seattle store was looted. The Macy’s across the street closed before Covid-19 and the riots. Downtown, overwhelmed by homeless, and Capitol Hill are losing their allure. Boeing, for inexplicable reasons, moved to Chicago in 2001. Distance work occasioned by Covid-19 has shown employers not every employee needs to work in a cubicle in a high rise downtown office building. Amazon’s rapid growth revitalized the South Union area. Defund the police, tolerate looting, watch the exodus. May 25: Minneapolis May 30: Seattle The days Minneapolis and Seattle lost control.

No comments: